In this supposed ‘Black Cinematic Renaissance’, which spans nearly a decade, only one year has seen more than one film directed by Black nominated for Best Picture (2018: ‘Black Panther’ and ‘BlacKkKlansman’ ). And in the Academy’s 92-year history, there have only been six nominations for Best Black Director. None of them was a black woman, and only one film directed by a black woman was nominated for Best Picture (“Selma”). And this problem is not limited to Black Western movies. Since 2000, only six African films have been nominated for best international feature film (Tunisia this year received a nod for “The Man Who Sold His Skin”). None have made the jump to best director or best film.
Since #OscarsSoWhite, the Academy’s progress in diversifying its members has of course broadened while increasing the number of black nominees. And yet, this change remains isolated from the realms of best director and best picture.
Considering the introspection the Whites would have taken over the summer, shouldn’t more than one film noir have been recognized for the two biggest prizes at the ceremony? Shouldn’t black women like King and Blank who were recognized by the DGA for their first feature films break through?
Wasn’t representation supposed to solve this problem? Or like Vulture critic Angelica Jade Bastién elucidates in her reflection Twitter feed, is the lever of representation almost useless in the Hollywood machine?
The Academy, as much as it says otherwise, has never been about quality (shocking, I know). Money. Stories. Power of the stars. These form who gets an appointment. It is therefore futile to wonder which films, based on quality, deserve to be there. Especially when competition should not be endemic to art. However, these factors should lead to questioning the limits of representation. Can a diverse electorate make various decisions when a prejudiced capitalist system says otherwise?